Senate District 10 extends into Polk County and includes west and south Salem.

Nkenge Harmon Johnson, president and CEO of the Urban League of Portland, has filed to run for the Salem-area Senate seat previously held by Jackie Winters.

On Monday, Harmon Johnson, a resident of Salem, created a candidate committee to run as a Democrat against Denyc Boles, a Republican who was appointed to the seat in June following the death of Winters.

Winters, a Republican, was elected to the Senate seat representing south Salem and part of Polk County in 2002. The district’s party registration has trended in favor of Democrats in recent years. But Winters, a well-liked moderate, managed to hold the seat.

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The Senate seat will be up for reelection in 2020 and both parties see it as a competitive race. Deb Patterson, a congregational minister who previously ran against Winters in 2018, has already filed to run again and started fundraising.

Previously, Harmon Johnson served as communications director for former Gov. John Kitzhaber. She departed from the position after objecting to the influence of Kitzhaber’s girlfriend, Cylvia Hayes. She has served in her current role since 2015.

Harmon Johnson could not be reached for comment. 

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After years of being held by the GOP, Democrats see opportunity in Salem Senate seat

Contact reporter Jake Thomas at 503-575-1251 or jake@salemreporter.com or @jakethomas2009.